Even if the left-winger isn't a real scoring threat, he doesn't have to be in order to make a real impact on the team.
During the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, Gabriel Bourque quickly became a favorite among both casual and lifelong Predators fans, because of his potential scoring ability and his obvious grit and speed. Then, this past year, he disappointed us with a paltry nine goals and 17 assists. But let's face it: he wasn't the only Predator to disappoint us last year. So where's the silver lining?
First of all, Bourque's possession numbers improved dramatically. His 5v5 CF jumped from 47.5% to 52.3% from two years ago to last year, a near 5% increase. He also saw less ice time (almost 2 minutes per game less than the previous year) even though his possession numbers indicate he was more effective at possession while on the ice than he had ever been. But he wasn't scoring as much as was expected, or at least as much as the Predators needed him to.
Bourque should have never been hailed as a scoring winger under the Trotz system. That's not to say that under Laviolette he will elevate to that level, but the expectation should be completely different. Bourque is a bottom 6 forward that needs to play on an energy line with other similar possession-minded skaters. Not only will this accentuate his skills, but playing against lesser tier opponents should help him increase his game even more.
Best Case Scenario
He reverts to the 2012-2013 version of himself, where he combines goal scoring ability with tenacious grit. Everyone wants the "old" Gabby back, but this doesn't mean he needs to be a top-five goal scorer on the team in order to have a good season. A 35-40 point year would be a step in the right direction. Most importantly he needs to establish himself as a formidable threat on the 3rd or 4th line with players like Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom, Calle Jarnkrok, etc., providing consistent possession numbers and some offensive flash.
Worst Case Scenario
His possession numbers drop, he scores a pedestrian single digit goal total, and he loses ice-time to playmakers like Jarnkrok or proven vets like Cullen. Lost in the log jam of youth, he doesn't make a significant enough difference on the team and the Predators don't bother with a qualifying offer at the end of the season. He then signs with some dumb team like Calgary or something.
He finishes the year with 18 goals and 24 assists, leading the charge on the 3rd line. He also dominates Chicago, leading the team in points against the Hawks by the end of the year.
Fox. Sharp claws, sneaky quick, aggressive. And with as many roster questions as this team has, we must ask: what does the Bourque say?
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